Taylor relies on flair to pin down French strength

It is thus unfortunate that England have not only been drawn against strong opposition but must meet them with several key players missing through injury.

A quartet of withdrawals, headed by the captain Nigel Reo-Coker and the exciting new talent Aaron Lennon, yesterday became a quintet when Charlton's Jerome Thomas pulled a hamstring. With the stand-in captain Gary O'Neil also doubtful, Taylor, not for the first time, will be juggling his dwindling resources right up to kick-off. There is, at least, the return from the senior squad of Darren Bent, who will partner Carlton Cole in attack, and Kieran Richardson.

"It is good to have them with us," Taylor said. "France are a strong team but so are we. We'll be looking to play good football and get crosses in."

England will be supported by a 30,000-plus crowd. With astute ticket pricing (£10 for adults, £5 for children) offsetting the Friday night traffic conditions, the match may even sell out. "I hope the French youngsters find it daunting," Taylor said. He could also be forgiven for hoping for some favourable refereeing: Tonight's official is a Mr Eriksson, from Sweden.

One player who will feel at home is Tottenham's Michael Dawson, who will join Anton Ferdinand in central defence. "To be playing for England at my home ground will be special," he said. Dawson, who has been keeping Noureddine Naybet and Anthony Gardner out of the Spurs team, credits Des Walker, his former defensive partner at Nottingham Forest, and Ledley King, his partner at Tottenham, with speeding his progress.

France have a useful record in age-group competition, having recently won the Under-19 championships in Ireland, defeating England in the final. But none of the four English-based players in their squad are Premiership regulars. Gaël Clichy, of Arsenal, Lassana Diarra, Claude Makelele's understudy at Chelsea, and Liverpool's Florent Sinama-Pongolle are expected to start. The latter's Anfield team-mate, Anthony Le Tallec, on loan at Sunderland, is likely to be on the bench.

The second leg is in Nancy on Tuesday with the finals - likely to be held in Italy or Portugal - scheduled for 25 May to 6 June.

England Under-21 (probable, 4-4-2): Carson (Liverpool); Taylor (Wigan), Ferdinand (West Ham), Dawson (Tottenham), Hoyte (Sunderland); Ambrose (Charlton), Huddlestone (Wolves), O'Neil (Portsmouth) or Milner (Aston Villa), Richardson (Manchester United); Cole (Chelsea), Bent (Charlton).

France Under-21 (probable, 4-1-3-2): Gavanon (Clermont); Sagna (Auxerre), Faty (Stade Rennes), Zubar (Caen), Clichy (Arsenal); Diarra (Chelsea); Debuchy (Lille), Mavuba (Bordeaux), Toulalan (Nantes); Sinama-Pongolle (Liverpool), Briand (Stade Rennes).

Referee: J Eriksson (Sweden).

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine